Like all songwriters, Oleander lead singer Thomas Flowers feels the passion in music. And for those who feel it – the muse can often speak loudly and clearly and creating is a cathartic joy rather than a difficult, yet necessary, chore. “I never set out to write a song,” says Flowers. “They just happen – I pick up a guitar and they’re just waiting for me. Every one of these songs comes from the deepest part of me.”
And it is from this need to create music that Oleander grows. It’s the clear, heartfelt, sometimes brutally honest power of those songs that propels them, a band that draws on multiple sonic references but imitates no one. From the dark, plaintive dreamscape of “How Could I” to the ominous downbeats of “You’ll Find Out,” FEBRUARY SON is a striking, original record, driven by Flowers’ unswerving love of music.
It’s the sincerity of Flowers’ songwriting, coupled with the musicianship of his fellow bandmates, that makes FEBRUARY SON such a remarkable sonic experience. “My songs are predominantly warnings,” Flowers explains. “Advice I give myself to stay on track. For instance, ‘Why I’m Here’ is a song about the time my wife and I had separated. I was living in a friend’s garage and was pretty much destitute.” “How Could I” also addresses this period of separation: Flowers says it’s the song he’s proudest of, “even though I’m not proud of the situation it was written about.”
Oleander took their name from the highly-poisonous oleander plants which grow in California – some growing outside of the band’s practice studio provided the inspiration for the name. Through hard work and perseverance, Flowers and bassist/co-founder Doug Eldridge guided the Sacramento-based band to its current line-up. Guitarist Ric Ivanisevich recalls the first time they got together to jam: “From the first note of the first song, I heard something amazing.” Eldridge adds, “Songs just seemed to flow together incredibly easily.” All things didn’t come so easy for Oleander though. After a year auditioning drummers and working with several, the band finally added veteran drummer Fred Nelson, Jr. to its roster. Flowers laughs as he remembers a few of the encounters. “It’s always an uncomfortable thing, auditioning a musician. You’re nervous, they’re nervous.” He chuckles. “We came across all kinds.”
Finding time in their busy schedules to come together to create the music that fuels them has not always been easy either. Flowers has worked as a bus boy for a number of years to make ends meet, while Ivanisevich has kept his day job at a record story. Eldridge often takes to the slopes to enjoy another passion in his life – extreme snowboarding. But through sheer drive, they’ve made it happen.
In late ’97, Oleander recorded a 10-song independent release that quickly caught the ear of hometown station KRXQ Program Director Curtiss Johnson. In fact, Johnson liked it so much he added “Down When I’m Loaded” into regular rotation. After the success of that first single, Johnson decided to go with a second, “Why I’m Here,” which quickly climbed the playlist and became the station’s #1 most-requested song for several months.
In the summer of ’98, after inking a record deal with Republic/Universal Records, Oleander found themselves in the studio once again, this time with producer Steven Haigler (Fuel, Local H, Jimmy’s Chicken Shack). Along with Haigler at the console, Oleander recorded the eleven tracks that would become FEBRUARY SON. And to cap off an already exciting year, radio syndicate Westwood One chose “Why I’m Here” as one of two “Sure Fire Hits” for ’99 for their year-end show hosted by KROQ’s (Los Angeles) Jed the Fish. The show aired on affiliate stations across the country.
A collection of timeless songs that offer both cautionary tales and hope, propelled by rollicking, hyper rock ‘n’ roll and instantly memorable hooks, FEBRUARY SON is scheduled for release on February 23, 1999.